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Posted at 8:20 PM ET, 06/22/2010

Virginia must keep its Metro funding pledge

By editors

By Catherine Hudgins
and Chris Zimmerman

Virginia’s transportation secretary, Sean T. Connaughton, has informed the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission that he will not honor the state’s commitment to provide $50 million annually for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board’s safety improvements unless Northern Virginia relinquishes two of its four seats on the WMATA board [“Va. could jeopardize Metro plan,” Metro, June 18].

Until the secretary’s challenge, the commission had never been asked by any state official to replace local elected representatives on the WMATA board with political appointees from Richmond. Virginia’s investment is part of a cooperative plan to provide $300 million annually for critical infrastructure improvements. If any party backs out, the plan will fall apart.

The secretary’s claim that the commonwealth is providing more than half of Virginia’s share of the Metro budget is false. In fiscal 2011, funds from the commonwealth will account for only 28.3 percent of the combined costs of Northern Virginia’s localities and the commonwealth to support WMATA. Northern Virginia’s taxpayers and transit riders pay for WMATA through their local governments’ contributions, fares and parking fees, and the regional gas tax dedicated to WMATA. In the past decade Northern Virginia’s local funding effort totaled $2.6 billion (76 percent), while the state paid $827.5 million (24 percent).

Virginia has told the federal government that these matching funds are dedicated under state law — otherwise, Metro would not be eligible for the new federal funding. The state should not break the promise made to its residents and regional partners.

The writers are members of the WMATA board of directors.

By editors  | June 22, 2010; 8:20 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Metro, Virginia, transportation  
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Since Mr Connaughton thinks they contribute fifty percent then a compromise should be reached. In return for the two seats the state of VA should pony up the money needed for the state to actually be contributing fifty percent. This would allow VA riders to pay a lesser fare. Has anyone asked him why VA needs two seats on the board ?

Posted by: Falmouth1 | June 23, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

It is a tragic irony that on the one year anniversary of the deaths of 9 individuals on the WMATA system, Catherine Hudgins and Christopher Zimmerman are more concerned about keeping their precious seats on the WMATA board, than on addressing any of the safety recommendations identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As has been widely reported, not one of the nine safety measures identified by the NTSB after the accident has been implemented by the WMATA Board. Indeed, it was not until the end of May that the WMATA Board took the time to even vote on replacing the outdated Series 1000 Metro cars that played a substantial role in those deaths.

Moreover, Hudgins and Zimmerman are engaging in the literary equivalent of three-card Monte regarding the Commonwealth of Virginia’s contributions to the dysfunctional WMATA system. They argue that only 28.3% of funds derive from the Commonwealth, while claiming that “Northern Virginia’s taxpayers and transit riders” pay for the bulk of WMATA funding through various mechanisms.

Last time I checked, Northern Virginia is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. At the end of the day, WMATA funding originating from Richmond or Northern Virginia is a distinction with no meaningful difference.

Indeed, every source of revenue they identify as originating from Northern Virginia -- local governments’ contributions (i.e. property taxes), fares and parking fees and a regional gas tax -- are ripped from the pockets of Virginia consumers. All of this funding goes to support a metro system that under the stewardship of Hudgins and Zimmerman (and the rest of the WMATA Board) has spiraled into complete disarray resulting in deadly consequences.

Hudgins and Zimmerman should be ashamed of themselves for writing such a self-serving piece for publication in the Washington Post. Instead of preserving their seats on the WMATA Board, perhaps they should focus more of their attention to the serious safety issues that remain unaddressed in the WMATA system.

Posted by: kgrupy | June 23, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Since Northern Virgina, in particular Farifax, are donator counties I look at the 28% as Richmond returning the money donated back to Northern Virgina. Also, call this what it is 'Blackmail' by a Governer and Richmond who don't care about our traffic or transportation problems at all.

Posted by: markeverline | June 23, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

It is local politicians like Zimmerman and Hudgins from Northern Va. (and Jim Graham from D.C.) who are obstructing much-needed reform of the Metro system.

They fail to mention that the Maryland Governor and D.C. Mayor are able to appoint some of their members to the WMATA Board. Yet they seek to deny the same opportunity for the Virginia Governor - the only official who is elected by ALL of northern Virginia.

Zimmerman and Hudgins fail to acknowledge responsibility for Metro's dismal state. They voted to rehire the disastrous John Catoe as General Manager last fall; they continue to deny the well-documented safety and management problems at Metro; and they have blocked efforts to control costs in the Metro budget.

There is a desperate need to reform Metro - as correctly noted in several Post editorials. Gov. McDonnell deserves credit for his willingness to tackle the problem -- as do the Governor of Md. and the Mayor of D.C.

Zimmerman, Hudgins and Graham should have the common decency to step aside, and allow more qualified personnel to serve on the Metro Board.

Posted by: jrmil | June 23, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The McDonnell joke continues. Who the hell in Richmond rides the Metro.? NOVA pays for the thing and should have the say on the board. Why do the yahoos souuth of Fredericksburg keep interfereing? NOVA provides the state with most of it's revenue, yet those in the southern bit of the state just keep stifling NOVA. Metro neds the money, NOW. McDonnell used his NOVA ties to get elected. Now he screws us.

Posted by: jckdoors | June 23, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Maryland puts up money and gets to appoint board members. DC puts up money and gets to appoint a board members. The Feds put up money and gets to appoint board members. Virginia puts up money and.....

This is really a no brainer. VA should get to appoint two of the Board members. Maybe instead of local politicians who are more keen to appease whoever can shout the loudest in their districts, perhaps a VA appointee will actually have managerial experience and help move WMATA in the right direction.

Zimmy and Hudgins are just afraid they will lose their places on the board if NOVA has two give up two of their seats.

It's really sad considering they have done such a piss poor job with WMATA in recent years.

Posted by: matt15 | June 23, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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